Cannes on the French Riviera is a delightful city to visit any time of the year, known for its glamour, particularly in May when the annual Cannes Film Festival attracts the greatest film stars in the world. It's a big seaside resort on the Mediterranean shore with top hotels but lots of good, sandy, and free public beaches. And Cannes is a perfect jumping off point for other towns along this glitzy part of the Côte d'Azur, as well as day trips to two of the beautiful Iles de Lérins islands. Visitors will find interesting museums, a colorful covered market full of fresh local produce, nice parks with hiking trails, and some upscale shopping areas not to be missed.
Few spots better symbolize the glamour of Cannes than La Croisette, the more than 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) stretch of sidewalk that runs along the shoreline. La Croisette looks out to the Mediterranean on one side and is lined with historic hotels, casinos, restaurants, gardens, and more.
There are vendors selling souvenirs, and upscale shops across the street. Best of all, there are wonderful cafés along the beach and, for a fee, you can rent a lounge chair and umbrella on one of the private beaches belonging to the hotels and sip an expensive drink a few feet from the water.
During the famous Cannes Film Festival, the stars stretch out on the private beaches, surrounded by the paparazzi. Before going, confirm the promenade's renovation is not going to affect your visit.
Every May, the stars, wannabes, and film groupies descend on the Palais des Festivals for the annual, world famous Cannes Film Festival which turns the resort into a frenzy of activity for several days. Everybody tries to get a glimpse of the action; even if you aren't in the industry, there are ways you can participate. Arrive early each night of the festival to grab a beach chair and watch a different film on the great outdoor screen at Cinéma de la Plage on Cannes Beach.
Check out the guide to the Cannes Film Festival for more information on what (and who) to see where.
Go Shopping in Cannes
One of the major reasons to visit Cannes is to spend money. Besides the shops on La Croisette, there are numerous streets heading north from there and paralleling La Croisette. There's the shopping mall Cannes la Bocca, and several upscale chain stores such as Gucci for clothes, plus local boutiques.
Visit Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, or convention center, is a modern building at the east end of La Croisette. But it's the venue for all the big events in Cannes, including, naturally, the Cannes Film Festival. Even when the film industry has long since rolled up the red carpet, you can get a taste of the glitz by looking at the handprints of celebrities embedded in the flagstones outside the building.
The convention center hosts many events throughout the year, from concerts with young European musicians and Chopin piano series to circus events and France's second biggest competitive run, the Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes Nice-Cannes.
The Musée de la Castre is a museum housed in the remains of an 11th-century castle built by monks of Lérins, in the historic district Le Suquet. The museum displays musical instruments from around the world, and visitors enjoy the objects and art from the Himalayas, Oceania, and the Arctic, as well as Mediterranean antiques and pre-Columbian ceramics.
Go up the tower for a great view over Cannes itself and out to the Isles de Lérins on the horizon.
Visitors are easily lured to the Iles de Lérins islands off the coast of Cannes, which offer peace and quiet along with rocky inlets to enjoy. The two biggest islands—the inhabited ones—are only about a 15-minute ferry ride, but are a world away from the fancy resort.
Ile-Ste-Marguerite, the larger of the two, is dominated by its Fort. Walk through the cells and imagine the fate of the "Man in the Iron Mask," incarcerated here for 11 years in the late 1600s, according to the novelist Alexandre Dumas. The island also features tidal pools, secluded beaches, and nice walking trails and bird-watching spots.
Ile St-Honorat is quieter, and the site of the Abbaye de Lérins, where over 20 Cistercian monks run acres of vineyards. There are some well-liked restaurants like the abbey's high-end La Tonnelle with Mediterranean vistas, and the island has accommodation for overnight stays.
Explore Musée de la Mer
This unique Musée de la Mer (Museum of the Sea) is on the Ile Ste-Marguerite and well worth a visit in its own right. Exhibits are devoted to various things from photography collections of Cannes to the prison system and underwater archaeology collections. A highlight is the exhibit devoted to the mysterious "Man in the Iron Mask."
Marché Forville, one of France's great daily covered markets in the Le Suquet district of Cannes, is the place to be for seasonal, local fresh fruits and vegetables and a glimpse of how the locals live. You'll also find flowers, seafood, meats, spices, and specialties like olives. The market is any morning of the week except Mondays when the venue turns into a flea market (Marche Brocante).
La Croix-des-Gardes Nature Park and Forest is a 200-acre public space abundant with trails and located in the center of Cannes—a great place to enjoy a hike and a picnic with your loved ones.The park features a huge cross at its peak, and visitors can catch panoramic views of the city, as well as nearby bays and islands. The park's arboretum has more than 40 types of mimosa trees.